The Spectator Bird
ISBN 9780143105794 | 224 pages | 27 Jul 2010 | Penguin Classics | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
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Joe Allston is a retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "just killing time until time gets around to killing me." His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, had not been his choice. He passes through life as a spectator."It is the autobiographical nature of Stegner's work . . . that makes it so compelling. In every novel, the narrator has all the gifts of language, empathy, and philosophy, but he nonetheless can never free himself from the torments of the past."
A postcard from a friend causes Allston to return to the journals of a trip he had taken years before, a journey to his mother's birthplace where he'd sought a link with the past. The memories of that trip, both grotesque and poignant, move through layers of time and meaning, and reveal that Joe Allston isn't quite spectator enough.
-Jane Smiley, from the Introduction
"Elegant and entertaining . . . every scene [is] adroitly staged and each effect precisely accomplished."